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Essay on Cultural identity: Its Significance to Counter Colonizing Mind in Modern Times

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Many people claim who they are but they are not in the way they act; behave and way of living speak and noticeably. There is a danger in this way of prevention, this will affect an individual’s way of thinking that is not really who he is but the reality is, he is borrowing, and many times not aware. Way of living is very salient evidence of how to define an individual’s cultural identity. It carries a connotation of who someone is. How a family lives in a particular tribe reflects the culture of the whole tribe as a whole. Family orientation, an individual’s engagement with other cultures may affect his own identified culture. Preserving cultural identity starts in the specific unit of a particular tribal community. When one knew and realized who he is, he will be aware of who he is in the presence of the Creator.

In proclaiming the good news of the love of God through Jesus Christ, “the church is called to engage the world, not to react to it,” and “are we willing to see the face of God in the faces of people, sensing God’s presence in their situation?” Ministers and missionaries in many ways are not aware that their thoughts were controlling and imposing on tribal communities and insist on the perfect way of living as their thoughts and imagination reach. Sensing God’s presence in the context of the people, specifically tribal communities, understanding their real situation in the way they live. The tendency if one is not understanding their situation, which is, he/she directly dictates greatly affects their confidence in the missionary; they probably do not listen but look to someone who would understand them well. This is what the researcher learned from Kosuke Koyama in his book Water Buffalo Theology. Understanding well the situation of the tribal community lessens their worries and anxieties and will have a greater possibility of receiving the gospel and seeking understanding to live out the message of God and serve God. Koyama has a very good way of evangelizing the people in northern Thailand.

Points of Exposition of the Problem

Western people have a culture of their own and their culture is harmoniously applied in their context. They have practices that are good to them but not to us oriental people, the same goes for the opposite. Western people are individualistic, oriental is not, but family and relationship-oriented people are just like the Filipinos. Among cultures, practices are distinct; these have significance and deeper meaning with respect to their respective context. Practices are preserved through teaching them to the new generation of this time. The young generation of this day lives in a highly technological age but still, cultural identity must be defined by them.

Commonality always lies between cultures irrespective of the place where they are set. There are differences but what are the means to work together, can be enriched. Commonality deals with how cultures are interrelated with each other despite their diversity. Commonality meets at the bottom line of each culture. Thus, according to R. R. Reno, in terms of church situation regarding denominations, each one should determine what they do not share and what they share so as to effectively work together for the intention of the gospel of Christ.

Superiority Complex of Western Colonization

The thought of several Western people that their culture is higher and the Filipino culture is lower is their superiority complex. This idea is an imbalance in dealing with eastern people, it doesn’t seek to understand the situation. Superiority complex adds greatly to having a colonizing mindset, not sensitive to the people’s lives. This problem of those western people who are involved is defined in their cultural identity; they look down on minor cultures as they think it with their observation. Superiority complex doesn’t assure understanding of God’s love out of the people’s situation, seeing God’s face in their lives. Superiority thinking distorts the good relationships between cultures.

According to Kraft, anthropologists have found that “it is objectively impossible to distinguish worldwide levels of cultural progress” (Beals and Hoijer 1959, 720). They have concluded that cultures are to be regarded not as assignable to some level of overall superiority or inferiority with respect to other cultures. Cultures are, rather, more or less equal to each other in the ways in which they are structured to meet the needs felt by their members. In this sense, it is felt that any given culture shapes a way of life that must be seen as valid and adequate for those immersed in it. Cultures are therefore both as good as each other and as bad as each other in shaping that way of life. None is anywhere near perfect, since all are shaped and operated by sinful human beings. But none in its healthy state is to be considered invalid, inadequate, or unusable by God and humankind. Kraft in his study cited Turnbull 1972 for a description of an unhealthy culture.

Loss of Cultural Identity

Imposing the identity of foreign cultures is the cause of the loss of identity of Filipinos. Filipinos were influenced by many colonizers, who spent years, and decades governing the Filipino community. The first colonizer was the Spaniards, then the Americans, disrupted by the Japanese and back to the Americans after they defeated the Japanese in World War II, each with their allies. In addition to these, Filipinos have early contact with Chinese merchants and other nations during the pre-Spanish era. According to Koyama, one Filipino can be observed in four different ways of living that affect their cultural identity as a people in each of their tribes. Distortion of culture is one discernible effect of colonizers of the Filipino context. Loss of cultural identity can be recovered in its sense of expression. This concern is, a concern not just for Filipinos but includes other cultures who are in the face of losing cultural identity.

Distorted Culture to Colonizing Mindset

Distorted culture because of Western influences and insistence results in a colonizing mindset. It is the situation that the Datu of Talaandig elaborated on a problem of Filipino thinking. The exposure increases awareness of what one is doing especially in the younger generation of Filipinos. The insistence on western ideas is not good, it could be applied properly to their context. This does not mean as oriental people we cannot work together with them; it is not in this intent. Insisting ideas must be controlled by seeing the advantages and disadvantages of what is beneficial to both cultures concerned. This concept is not appropriate when one is sharing the good news of Christ, the proclaimer must also be sensitive to how the people of a particular culture understand God in their community. The essence of understanding the gospel of Christ by the receiving culture is very important. This cannot distort their culture but will richly understand the gospel with the same essence as its original audience. This is an important consideration to reflect on.

How to Counter a “Colonizing Mind”

Eliminating and/or countering a colonizing mind is a challenge to the new generation of Filipinos. Everyone has a space in this world. One can contribute to one aspect of skills greatly, his neighbor can also do as enabled. To be connected to the Creator is very important. An individual is an asset to the culture to which he or she belongs. To elaborate further, the following are given discussion:

Relationship with the Creator

In countering or opposing a colonizing mind, a relationship with the Creator must be given utmost significance. One bad manifestation of our generation today is a poor connection to the Creator, they are focusing on the influences of technology and having poor management of utilizing them well. As an observation this day, in our generation, their voices reign in their lives which results in self-centeredness. A good relationship with the Creator is a process of healing and guiding us in the path of understanding the message of God and understanding who we are before the Creator. This process involves realigning our lives to the will of our Creator, living for his glory. Relationship with our Creator is the basis of our dealing with our neighbors as reflected in the Bible. This is done through our involvement or else we are disconnected from our Creator.

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Relationship with the Creator in a personal sense was a result of the geographical spread of the gospel as Christian believers. Gundry, a Bible Scholar said that the geographical spread of the gospel created the need for instruction from a distance, however; so the writing of the New Testament Letters started. Somewhat later the writing of the Gospels and Acts commenced as a literary means of evangelizing unbelievers, confirming the faith of believers, and providing an authoritative record of Jesus’ life and ministry as the availability of eyewitnesses diminished through their deaths and through the movement of the gospel away from Palestine, where most of the remaining eyewitnesses resided. This means of telling the gospel bridges people to know God and have a relationship with the Creator. Apostle Paul’s letters bring Gentiles into the presence of God through Christ. In reflection, the emphasis of Paul is a personal relationship with the Creator through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. He is an apostle to the Gentiles, a dedicated servant of God in reaching out to the Gentiles for the Lord.

An Individual’s Space in the World

Each individual has space in the world given by Creator. This is observed as controlled by people who think they are superior to others; this is the problem. This is the cause why most Filipinos cannot define the essence of their identity or cultural identity due to colonial past experiences. As mentioned, educators are emphasizing to give importance of the meaning of Filipino culture which is can be recovered, they wish that we could somehow go back and receive the gospel with the same essence of intention as the believers of the Jewish people. An individual’s space in the world is granted by the creator, who we are is important to be given a definition reflected by cultural background and identity. Controlling people’s lives is detrimental to the connection with the Creator. This problem speaks of dissension among people. The results are not worth learning by children of this age. To stop this, it must start with an individual’s dealing with himself, how he loves himself reflects how he loves others as well.

An Individual’s Role in His Culture in Particular

The researcher belongs to a tribal minority as many people called. He belonged to the tribe of Sarangani Manobo. In reflecting on his role in his cultural background in particular, during the exposure to the Talaandig tribe, he realized that he is colonized by Western thinking, claims to be a tribe in identity but is not in his way of living; he realized that he was colonized and is colonizing and imposing his ideas and ideologies to others. This is most of the time a natural way of dealing. The exposure adds wisdom to the researcher on how he is understanding himself towards the Creator and towards others. The experience enriches awareness and relationship with the Creator.

The researcher learned to see who he is and that he observed that he lost in the way. The interaction helps him reflect deeply on his personal thinking. Learning to understand the situation of tribal communities is a good common ground for how to show love to them as God loved us and his whole creation. The culture of people interconnects them but God’s love encompasses all and “his peace transcends all understanding”.

An Individual as an Asset in His Tribal Community

An individual, regardless of the tribal majorities or minorities he belonged to, could be and must be an asset in his tribal culture. Intellectual preparation and training well in education to work efficiently with his fellow men is a good asset. An individual’s educational attainment and skills are an excellent tool for serving not just for himself but for others and all in all, ultimately, to the Creator. Not just intellectual preparation is a good asset but other areas also such as cultural preservation by teaching the younger generation of their identity, and cultural skills in making souvenirs which could be a good practice. The tribe of T’boli in South Cotabato is excellent in promoting their cultural products, identifiable in their way of living.

The Principle that Lies to Counter a “Colonizing Mind”

Dealing with others as a good neighbor is very important to share the gospel of Christ. People whom missionaries are telling about Christ could see and sense the working of God in the one who is sharing with them. Kosuke Koyama emphasizes that “our sense of the presence of God will be distorted if we fail to see God’s reality in terms of our neighbor’s reality. And our sense of our neighbor’s reality will be disfigured unless seen in terms of God’s reality.” This is an important reflection of Koyama to warn ministers in mission works. Loving people as God loved them is learning from the work of Kosuke Koyama, a Japanese theologian, and educator. His ideas in gospel presentation are very significant strategies nowadays as he himself reflected the concern of God and his love for all his creation.

In the experiences of a missionary, he may encounter an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ in the context of a particular people who are having a culture of their own. Apostle Paul according to Roland Allen, Paul himself can see that he did not start out with any definite design to establish the churches in one or another place he intended to proclaim the gospel. Paul was led as God opened the door; but wherever he was led, he always found a center, and seizing upon that center, he made it a center of the Christian life.

Reflection on Cultural Identity

Who am I in the Past? In the past, the researcher thinks of a colonized mind and even at times without realizing doing it, which is colonizing and controlling others. To stop a colonizing mind is good learning he learned from the exposure. This way of living constitutes an artificial identity, not the real one. Colonizing others is a corrupted way of dealing with other people; this is like an individual who is corrupting his own very self. Eradicating this practice increases the true essence of one’s identity as he or she sees himself or herself and others before God.

Who am I in the Present? In the present, the researcher develops an awareness of sensing each space of individual in the world we lived from the Creator. He learned to have a partnership, seeing commonality with others in which he could work with them and enriching to work together as the point of ecumenism emphasizes. There are human weaknesses but as we help one another it builds us up to our connection to our Creator. Working together is good common ground denominations and organizations should focus to participate. As an observation, this is very lacking in the Filipino context. But reflecting on how God loves people and loves them as he command, enriches us all to work together. With this manner of reaching out to people for Christ, our cultural identity will never suffer in the face of modern society which is facing the challenge of modernization, globalization, and economic war between nations but our culture is reflected in the work of H. Richard Niebuhr that culture will be transformed by Christ according to his will as people of all tribes submit to him.


Cultural identity is very important to make an individual aware of who he is and be able to determine a distinction between himself and others. As mentioned by John Stott, the new Christian becomes responsible to Christ for his old setting and to his old setting in the new truth. But he is not thereby ‘going foreign’ (Lutterworth, 1956).

When one individual is aware of his identity, he will not interrupt God’s dealing with his neighbors. He proclaims the gospel of Christ without stopping God to bless the people and not stopping himself and the hearers to worship God and encounter the God the Creator of humanity. Our concern could easily be shown to our neighbors. All cultures regardless of who they are and what they are can work together without destroying the other one with them. They have commonalities that are desirably founded on the connection with the Creator and thus, God’s love, mercy, justice, and kindness are exemplified.

References and Bibliography

  1. Allen, Roland. Missionary Methods: God’s Plan for Missions According to Paul. Abbotsford, WI: Aneko Press, rev. © 2017. Kindle Electronic Edition.
  2. Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament, enhanced ed., 5th ed. Michigan: Zondervan, 2012, EPub Edition.
  3. Koyama, Kosuke. Water Buffalo Theology in the Preface to the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition.
  4. New York: Orbis Book, Maryknoll, 1999.
  5. Kraft, Charles H. Christianity in Culture: A Study in Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Twenty-fifth anniversary, 2nd ed. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005.
  6. Major parts of this study constitute the reflection of the researcher in the exposure in the Tribe of Talaandig in the Municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon, September 2019.
  7. Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1951.
  8. Ott, Craig and J. D. Payne, eds. Missionary Methods: Research, Reflections, and Realities Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013.
  9. Stott, John R. W. Christian Mission in the Modern World. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

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